July 9 through December 24, 2020
What might 19th century bed quilts and a pair of embroidered sneakers have in common? Sewful Work, the RJD’s newest exhibition opening June 26, includes examples of hand needlework that date from the early 19th century to the present. In this display, the viewer will find historic samplers; a silk bedcovering owned by William Rotch, Jr.’s daughter, Sarah Rotch Arnold; tatting; and tambour and traditional embroidery. White work and eyelet lace edging table linens, along with a few garments ornamented with handwork will also be on exhibition.
“Inspired by family samplers from the 19th century,” artist Judy Lund reminisces that she “began collecting local examples of needlework and researching the schools in the greater New Bedford area that taught these skills.” Lund has contributed examples of tambour embroidery to the exhibition, a style that was taught in New Bedford in 1821. “This style of needlework originated in the 15th century when it was called Spanish chain work,” Lund explains. “Fashionable ladies in the 18th century discovered it, including Madame de Pompadour in France.” Lund has also loaned historic samplers to the exhibition.
Ingenuity and perseverance characterize the creators of each work in this exhibition. Small pieces embroidered by Boston-area artist Elaine McBride illustrate her feelings and thoughts. Deidre Scherer of Williamsville, Vermont, creates portraits in cloth intricately defining the characteristics of each face. Annette Cook, recently retired from nearby Friends Academy, enjoys designing quilts and pillows herself so that they are original. Her embroidery is heavily inspired by nature with some poetic license taken. She aspires to make her work “handgemacht” not “heimgemacht” (handmade not homemade.)
Many pieces demonstrate how artists often adapt old techniques to contemporary expression and work. For example, Melinda Medeiros, an artist based on the Cape, delights in embellishing her crazy quilt pieces with ribbon work and beading. Local quilter Christine Dole has accepted the challenge of a hand-sewn quilt to decorate a bed. Faith Baci, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, skillfully tats delicate pieces of cloth for handkerchiefs. Louise Travers gave in to her whimsical side and embroidered sneakers for herself and her husband.
These historical and contemporary pieces will adorn the second floor of the mansion this summer and fall, connecting past to present with the thread of a timeless art form.
~Blair Walker, Curator and Manager of Collections
Image: Civil Union, Deidre Scherer
View this exhibition virtually: